Meet StellarWP’s Director of Community Engagement: Q&A with Michelle Frechette

Meet Michelle Frechette: For nearly four years, she’s worked at GiveWP as the Director of Customer Success where she managed the customer success team. Now, she’s moving into a new role as Director of Community Engagement at StellarWP, helping us stay engaged with the WordPress community through social media, events, and other community-building efforts.

We chatted with Michelle about her history with WordPress, her goals in her new role at StellarWP, and her thoughts on what “community” means in the WordPress world.

Tell us about your history with WordPress. When did you first begin using WordPress? What led you to WordPress?

While managing two massage schools, my best friend and I decided to start a non-profit to help provide continuing education and support for massage therapists after graduation. Her husband is a web designer, so he built a WordPress website for us. Then he gave us logins and told us to populate the content.

I was terrified. I was convinced I would break everything.

But I logged in and started playing around, and I fell in love with WordPress. Clicking “publish” and “update” and then seeing the changes out on the web was intoxicating.

Once the WordPress bug had bitten me, I needed to learn more. I asked my friend’s husband to show me how to set up WordPress on my own. He refused to even entertain the idea of the one-button install—he wanted me to understand what WordPress is. So I learned to download it and use FTP to upload it to my site to deploy. I learned how to change SALT keys and how to edit wp-config.

The rest, as they say, is history. Since then, I’ve built hundreds of websites, from one-pagers to complex sites. I had a new career in WordPress; I freelanced for five years, then started working with the amazing team at GiveWP in January 2018.

How did you get involved with the wider WordPress community?

I started attending the local meetup and jumped at the chance to help organize it when they asked for help. I set up regular meetings and topics and booked speakers. 

After that, I spoke at my first WordCamp, then I joined the team in Buffalo to help with their WordCamp. From there I started WordCamp Rochester, and the rest has led me to a lot of places, including Big Orange Heart (an organization that supports mental health for remote workers), organizing WordCamp U.S., speaking at more WordCamps, WordPress and fundraising summits and Meetups, and helping wherever and however I can. 

Along the way, I also co-founded Underrepresented In Tech and joined the Post Status content team, in addition to many other wonderful projects. 

How do you plan to engage the WordPress community in your new role with StellarWP?

I look forward to doing outreach not just as myself, but representing StellarWP in the community, whether that’s making strategic connections for StellarWP and our brands, helping find people to apply for roles within the StellarWP universe, looking for sponsorship opportunities, or finding places to highlight and showcase the StellarWP brands and the people behind them.

Why is community so important in the WordPress world? This community seems pretty unique to our corner of the internet.

I’ve often said that WordPress is more than open source software—it’s an open source community. I’ve been amazed at how close this community is while also being so global. 

I love that you can meet people at WordCamps and Meetups and not only gain a resource, but also develop true friendships. The WordPress community is unlike any other I’ve ever known.

You wrote for Post Status about your experience when GiveWP was acquired by StellarWP. What’s your overall impression of life so far at StellarWP?

Oh my goodness. Nothing but pure joy for the people I’ve met and get to work with and for the opportunities that have been afforded to me here. I’ve always felt valued at GiveWP, but to move into a larger group of people and still feel valued and welcomed has been wonderful.

What are your hopes for the future of WordPress, particularly for underrepresented groups in tech?

Tech in general has been very white-male led and dominated for a long time. But it doesn’t need to stay that way. 

My hope is that women, people of color, those in the LGBTQ+ community, disabled folks, and people in other underrepresented groups will be afforded space at the top, valued for their contributions and experiences, and welcomed in circles that allow them to contribute and help shape the future of WordPress in the community—both within companies and other circles. Inclusion makes a much richer experience for everyone and creates greater opportunities for success. 

At Underrepresented In Tech, Allie Nimmons and I created a database of job candidates where anyone in an underrepresented group can opt in. Employers looking for diverse and qualified candidates can search the database to find matches for the skills they need. And it’s completely free for both sides to use.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m very excited about the future of StellarWP and so grateful to play a role here. My email and DMs in all the social channels and Slack are always open. This is an open invitation to plan some time with me to see how we can grow successfully together.

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